Sunday, March 24, 2013

Home Bug Garden: Austral Version

Toothed White Banded Moth

There is a land far, far away, where the summers are as long as an Alberta winter and the winters as mild as an Alberta summer. Once, long ago, I inhabited such a dreamland. I was content with the land, if not the job, but the Home Bug Gardener's other half was content with neither and longed for the cold, dark whiteness of the North. White is a funny shade: it reflects all light and so seems to dominate the mind. For example, the large Toothed White Banded Moth Donuca orbigera (GuenĂ©e, 1852) above is more brown than white, but is not known as the 'brown-banded white moth'. It is related to the Alberta Underwing Moths (Noctuidae: Catocalinae) and the Fruit-piercing Moths that are such pests here. Larval hosts for the caterpillars of this moth are apparently unknown, but may possibly be trees in the genus Acacia.
Glasswing or Little Greasy Butterfly
Sometimes white can fade away to nothing but a smear (or a mess, as in the Alberta thaw) as with the Glasswing or Little Greasy Acraea andromacha (Fabricius, 1775). For some reason, the scales are shed from the front wings of this Nymphalidae butterfly (related to the Monarch, Painted Ladies, Satyrs - but in a different subfamily - Acraeinae). Caterpillars feed on the leaves of Passionfruit vines (Passiflora) and Spade Flower (Hybanthus spp.). Believe it or not, Spade Flowers were once put in the genus Viola and are still retained in the Violet family.
A Spade Flower, possibly Hybanthus enneaspermus 
Not all Queensland butterflies are white or greasy (although some Papilionidae also have transparent front wings). Most are quite spectacular, for example the Common Eggfly  Hypolimnas bolina (Linnaeus, 1758).
Male Eggfly showing eggs in wings
This is another Nymphalidae and in the nominate subfamily. It is a large butterfly and the males patrol territories about 30m long on gravel roads and trails in the hereabouts (near Miva, Queensland). The upper surfaces are brilliantly iridescent purple in the sun.
A female Eggfly, Sunshine Coast Hinterlands version
In contrast, the female is spectacular too, but looks nothing like the male. Here in the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands, she may be trying to look like a cross between a Lesser Wanderer and an Orchard Swallowtail. I don't know, but the female morph varies geographically and tends to look like distasteful crows (Euploea - another genus of Nymphalidae).
Love Flower  Pseuderanthemum variabile
In Queensland, the Eggflies use a plant with a vaguely violet-like flower as their primary host - the Love Flower Pseuderanthemum variabile. Although these plants look a bit like violets and grow on the forest floor, they actually belong to the family Acanthaceae. You can watch the females seemingly ovipositing in the ground near the plants. Or, perhaps, they are just practicing. In Australia, one must always test one's assumptions.
A Dainty, Dingy or Small Citrus Swallowtail
For example, consider the butterfly family Papilionidae, better known as Swallowtails. Above is a female of Papilio anactus Macleay, 1826. This butterfly goes by a number of nome de plumes, but I prefer 'Dainty'. But 'swallowtail' wherefore art thou? Clearly this 'swallowtail' is laying eggs on the orange tree out back, but swallowtail seems to be stretching a point. In Australia, it is always a good idea to leave your preconceptions behind, if visiting from a more northern locale.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Adventures in spider misidentification: Common Lynx

Lynx Spider perched on a rose leaf
I think this is a Common Lynx Spider (Oxypodes quadrifasciatus), but I'm pretty sure it is a lynx spider of some sort (family Oxypodidae). She's a bit more brightly red than the pictures on the Brisbane Insects & Spiders page, but such variation is to be expected. Of course, I've been known to be wrong about spiders before, but if so this time I have lots of company on the WWW since there are more than one such red lynxes with the same name appended.

The lynx spider was sitting on top of her egg mass on the underside of a leaflet of an old sprawling rose here in the Hinterlands of the Sunshine Coast until I started chasing her with my point-and-shoot. Lynx spiders are hunters and don't build webs for capturing their prey, but like to pounce like a wild cat. They tend to be fairly attractive as spiders go and are fun to watch.

Brown Huntsman in colour and maybe in genus
Australian Huntsman (Sparrasidae) are also hunting spiders and 'very interesting' to watch. When a spider with the leg-span of a large human hand is walking across your window in the middle of the night, the feeling induced can be very ambiguous. Still they usually only scare people to death and most have painful but not very dangerous bites. This one seemed to be eating something composed of scales and silk - perhaps a moth caught in another spider's web. Possibly it is a member of the genus Heteropoda. Many of these featured in the film Arachnophobia.